Is A Master's Degree Really Necessary?



By: Tori Owens

School is a commitment. By the time people reach their twenties, they’ve most likely spent the majority of their lives in the classroom. It’s no wonder then that the decision to pursue graduate school – foregoing a steady salary and real-life experience for an additional year or two – comes with speculation from others.

When I received my Master's in Journalism, I got a lot of questions. From friends to industry professionals, the one thing people asked without fail was, “Why did you get your Master's Degree to go into a field you didn’t need one in?” But I never wavered in my decision to get an advanced degree; I loved school and loved writing, and come the end of undergrad, quite frankly, I wasn’t ready to leave.

So, does anyone really need a Master’s degree in a creative field or beyond? The answer is cliché in that there is no right or wrong one (but really, there isn’t). Whether or not to pursue graduate school is a personal choice in which both emotional and financial factors come into play. For anyone who has thought about it or is currently considering an advanced degree program, here are some things to think about.

To go or not to go

For many, deciding whether to pursue graduate school or join the 9-to-5 masses is the hardest part of the process. If you are in this lot, ask yourselves these two questions (and answer them honestly!):

  1. Do I like school? (In other words, would I be motivated to “do school” for another couple of years?)

  2. Why am I considering grad school in the first place (i.e. to keep learning, make more money, have a more competitive resume)?

If the answer to the first question is “no,” or if a higher salary is truly one’s only motivation, getting an advanced degree will definitely be a tougher - but not completely undoable - route. To make it easier, try an accelerated program or online option. Whatever you choose, just remember that a graduate degree does take hard work, disciple, and a lot of time management!

The pros and cons

Even for those of you who can’t wait to apply to grad school, it’s good to be aware of the potential benefits and setbacks involved with that decision.

Pro + Some people find delving into a niche subject matter and being surrounded by others who also care about that topic to be the best part of graduate school. It’s almost like being really into a song, playing it for friends, and having all of them start singing along to it then overanalyzing the lyrics and nerding out on what they say about society, basically.

+ Grad school can also provide more clarity into what you want to do professionally. Instead of jumping into a field or uncertain interest, an advanced degree can lead you down an unexpected path or uncover a hidden passion you may not have previously been aware of.

Con - On the flip side, for those of you who are deciding if graduate school right after undergrad is your route, you may start to feel what I call “professional life envy” along the way. Basically, you start to see your friends and peers gaining real world working experience while you’re still stuck doing homework and attending classes. 

Regardless, different people will say different things about whether or not a Master’s degree is really “necessary.” But making the decision about graduate school comes down to having an honest conversation with yourself and recognizing your own goals and motivations. In the end, no matter where you are – a classroom, an office, a home – there’s always potential to learn!


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